Guest essay by Eric Worrall
An attendee at the Harvard University event “Hope and Despair: Communicating an Uncertain Future” expressed concern about how few undergrads bothered to attend their climate doomsday event.
Climate Change Panel Talks ‘Hope and Despair’
By YASMIN LUTHRA and AIDAN F. RYAN, CONTRIBUTING WRITERS
Climate change researchers, professors, and journalists debated how best to present the severity of climate change to the public Wednesday evening at an event hosted by the Harvard University Center for the Environment.
The discussion, titled “Hope and Despair: Communicating an Uncertain Future,” was held in the Geological Lecture Hall. Elizabeth M. Wolkovich, an assistant professor in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, moderated a discussion about how to best motivate the public to take action on climate change.
David Wallace-Wells, who is the deputy editor of the New York Magazine and wrote the article “The Uninhabitable Earth” this year, advocated the use of fear about the planet’s future as a way to inspire more people to become “climate agents.”
“I think that there is real value in scaring people,” Wallace-Wells said. “When I talk to colleagues it just seems so obvious to me that when you think about the relatively well-off Western world, that complacency about climate is just a much bigger problem than fatalism about climate.”
Henry G. Scott ’18, who attended the event and is writing a thesis on how humans have historically impacted the environment, said that he enjoyed the panel but was bothered by how few undergraduates attended the event.
“When I first sat down, I was kind of looking around and noticing how few undergrads were present, which kind of built into my preconceived idea that this isn’t something that we’re aware of or we’re concerned enough about as a student body,” he said.
Obviously one event isn’t much of a sample; for all I know it was half price beer at the student bar that night. But it is inevitable that the climate movement will fall out of fashion. Being a student rebel, occupying Wall Street, trying to bring down the system to save the world, all seems kindof exciting; until the “rebels” realise their parents are camped out in the tent next door to them.